The final book of the trilogy on army supply

The final  book of the trilogy on army supply
The third of my books on army supply

Vehicles to Vaccines

 Vehicles to Vaccines was published by APS Books on 4 December 2023 and may be bought on Amazon

The book is a quest to discover what happened to British manufacturing in the decades after the Second World War. People say that we don’t make things any more. Is this true? 

I try to answer this question by exploring what happened in manufacturing sectors and to major manufacturing companies. I seek out manufacturing heroes, and try to map out where we are as the twenty-first century gets underway.

In 1951, the Festival of Britain was celebrating British manufacturing; we built ships, wonderful aircraft like the Viscount and cars a plenty. Seventy years later a British company and a British University teamed up to produce a vaccine that saved thousands of lives from Covid.

It has been a period of astonishing change, from a third of the working population employed in manufacturing to now just one tenth. Britain now ranks eighth among the world’s top manufacturing nations.

This book seeks to explore what has changed: the story of British manufacturing from steam trains to semiconductors; from cotton mills to 3D printing; from ocean liners to satellites.

British Manufacturing was the envy of the world; it led the way. In time other nations caught up and indeed overtook the British in value of output. In 1951, manufacturing employed one third of the workforce; in the twenty-first century this has fallen to just ten percent. Britain now ranks eighth in the world league table of manufacturing nations. What had happened? 

I explored the years up to 1951 in my book How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World (HBSTMW) which looked at the story of British manufacturing through the prism of the Great Exhibition of 1851. In this volume I seek to explore what happened since.

The Festival of Britain of 1951 gave a message of hope to a country worn down by war and yet more rationing. The future was to be as bright as the colours of new materials for the promised homes, hospitals and schools. Power was to be nuclear and hydroelectric. The world’s vehicles were British, be they ships, aircraft or wheeled. The world though was also picking itself up from the devastation of war with new factories and shipyards competing in export markets. What might be called the gluttony of hydrocarbons began with massive oil tankers taking to the seas and plastics finding their way into every part of life.
In this world of change, British manufacturing didn’t stand still. In this book I delve into manufacturing, sector by sector drilling down into some key companies. I begin with a chronology mapping out events and developments that impacted across sectors. I then explore the building blocks: energy, metals, chemicals and plastics before moving to engineering and electricity. From there it is vehicles in their many forms before converging on defence which was and remains a major sector. The home is the destination of so much manufacturing and I explore first construction, then consumer products, food and textiles, ending up with designer makers. Of all the sectors pharmaceuticals is for me the most remarkable growing from a minnow into a world leader, and I conclude with this as my final chapter. Two appendices follow. A summary of the Design Review from the Festival of Britain which highlights the products and companies selected for their design. Finally there is a list of books for further reading which is important because this book would not have been possible without the painstaking work of many authors of company histories. I thank each of them.

The image was provided by Hone-All Precision Ltd and is of their Jones & Shipman machine, still in use after upgrades.

No comments: